- Three Rules to Live and Shop By
- Label Term Definitions
- Shopping Strategies - Shop Like a Pro
Artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners. Who are we kidding? Fruit "drinks" have little or no actual fruit content. "Wheat" bread often has no fiber. The shelves are lined with overprocessed, nutrient-depleted, artificially preserved foods that have been "enriched" to add back some of the destroyed and removed nutrients. Are we kidding ourselves? Take time when you are shopping to read the labels. Scour through your pantry and throw away "foods" that don't measure up. Pictures of natural foods on the package do not necessarily represent the contents inside the package. Don't be fooled by these marketing tactics. "Wheat" and "Grain" mean nothing unless the nutritional label lists a worthy amount of fiber per serving. Junk food made with not quite as much sugar or fat are still not okay to eat. Marketing can be powerfully deceptive. Skip the tricks and head straight to the Nutrition Facts on the side or back panel.
Rule #1: Don't Be Fooled by Food Package Claims
Food packages are covered with a daunting amount of confusing terms and health claims: reduced fat, low sugar, all natural, enriched, fortified... Do you find food labels confusing? What does it all mean? Are you aware of what to look for and how to interpret the information posted on food packages? In this volume of the Fit & Healthy volume, we will help dissolve some of the mystery and help you attack those grocery aisles armed with knowledge and confidence. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of taking the time to read the label of every food product before you place it in your cart. By using the simple principals presented in this newsletter, you can establish new eating habits and transform yourself into a smart, "Fit & Healthy" consumer.
Rule #2: Consider Realistic Serving Sizes
A primary downfall of product labeling is that the serving sizes seldom represent the amount of product that is actually consumed. Many beverage containers list the calories and sugar for the contents of only half of the container, while we know that people typically are not sharing their drink with a second person. Snack bags may report the serving size as only 10 to 20 crackers or chips, when the true typical serviing size is several times this amount. In this way, the Nutrition Facts posted on packaged foods can be very misleading. Instead of being fooled, be realistic and multiply the reported calories, sodium, sugar and fat by the number of servings that will likely be consumed. I find it helpful to multiply these numbers by the total number of servings in the package in order to determine the total content in the package and then think about the big overall impact of consuming that product. Often, that is enough to motivate me to put the garbage right back on the shelf and move on. That's the truth, isn't it? Eventually you or your child will consume the entire amount of saturated fat, sugar and sodium in that package at the price of a very large number of total calories.
Rule #3: Keep it Simple
Before we get into further details about food labels, let's address the simple solution to all this label de-coding. I suggest that you simplify your life by minimizing your need to read the food labels. How do you simplify your shopping experience, making it a more enjoyable experience that will also boost your self-confidence and health? The easy solution is to fill your cart with produce, produce and more produce. Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of natural plant nutrients, including complex carbohydrates and protein. Add nuts, peanuts, nut butters, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, legumes, and dried fruit to your shopping list as well, and you can confidently check out knowing that you are bringing home agents of health rather than toxic-overloaded, preservative- and additive-filled processed junk foods.
Label Term Definitions
- "Free" means that a typical serving includes zero to almost none of the referenced ingredient. "Sodium-Free" foods contain less than 5 mg per serving of sodium. Fat free foods contain less than 0.5 mg of fat per serving. Sugar Free foods have less than 0.5 mg of sugar per serving.
- "Very Low" and "Low" refer to about 140 mg or less of the referenced nutrient. However, low fat foods have less than 3 g of fat per serving.
- "Low Calorie" foods have 40 or fewer calories per serving.
- "Light" or "Lite" foods must have one third fewer calories or 50% less fat content.
- "Reduced" or "Less" signifies that there is at least 25% less of that nutrient than is standard for that type of food product. Reduced fat foods have typical fat content reduced by at least 25%. Reduced sugar foods have at least 25% less sugar.
- "Calorie Free" foods have less than 5 calories per serving.
- "Enriched" foods have had nutrients added back in to them which were depleted during processing. Nutrients lost or removed during processing are added back at levels that mimic the level found in that food's natural, unprocessed state. Common examples include "enriched" white flour.
- "Fortified" foods have nutrients added to them that are not naturally occuring in that particular food. Common examples include the addition of vitamin D to milk, the addition of calcium to orange juice, the addition of folic acid to breads, and the addition of iodine to table salt.
- "Cholesterol Free" foods have less than 2 mg of cholesterol and not more than 2 g of saturated fat per serving.
- "Reduced Cholesterol" foods contain 25% less cholesterol than that food's typical content and they must also have not more than 2 mg of saturated fat per serving.
For a successful, empowering shopping experience, follow these simple rules for filling your shopping cart. Be proud of the cart you are pushing through the aisles and into the checkout stand. Benefit your family and support their health and immunity naturally with nutrient-rich, organic foods, and skip the nutrient-poor, calorie-dense, processed foods to collect dust on the shelves.
- As mentioned earlier, get back to basics; get back to nature. It's simple and easy to shop when we plan our menu around natural foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, complex carbohydrates, fresh organic meats, nuts and seeds. Fill your cart with natural and wholesome foods and your worries will be few and your shopping experience will leave you feeling empowered, confident and proud.
- Fiber: Only buy breads and pastas that are made with whole grains and that provide 3 to 5 grams of fiber. Work to intake 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily.
- Go Brown - Skip the White: Purchase brown rice, whole grain pasta, and whole wheat breads. Skip foods made with white sugar, white flour, white rice, etc.
- Reduce the Sodium: The recommended total sodium intake per day is 2300 mg, or about 1 teaspoon of table salt. Purchase no-salt-added and reduced-sodium foods and leave high-sodium foods on the shelf. if your are African American, middle-aged or older, or have high blood pressure, than your recommended daily limit for sodium is much lower: 1500 mg. Be especially wary of soups, prepared meals, lunchmeats, and canned foods.
- Protein: Plan for 50 to 100 grams of protein daily. Prepare breakfast meals that will begin your day with 25 to 35 grams of protein. Read the labels so that you avoid preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites.
- Check the Sugars!: Read those ingredients. Is sugar mentioned in the first few ingredients. If so, skip that product! How many forms of sugar are listed: corn syrup, sucrose, sugar, fructose, sugar, cane sugar, agave, honey, molasses? Consider the total impact by reading and comparing the "Sugars" amount listed in the Nutrition Facts chart.
- Hidden Sugars: crackers, ketchup, salad dressing, juice, bread, protein bars, dried fruit... Products that you would not expect to contain sugar, often do. Start reading your labels faithfully and you will be surprised at the hidden sugars you will find.
- Artificial Ingredients: Just say no. Artificial sweeteners have been associated with weight gain and a number of serious diseases and disorders. Train your family away from their addiction to and expectation for sweets. I can think of nothing good that will come from consuming artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors and preservatives. Can you?
- Saturated Fats and Trans Fats: Trans fats are grounds for rejection and be very careful to keep saturated fat consumption to below 7% of your caloric intake. Trans fats have been associated with raising harmful blood cholesterol levels and with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Trans fats are often indicated by the word "hydrogenated" and are typically found in margarine, fried foods, pies, French fries, and crackers. Saturated fats occur naturally in meat and dairy foods that contain fat.
You can be a smart shopper. Skip the marketing fluff. Read the nutrition facts; scan the ingredients to screen out products that contain ANY artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors; and review the quantiftes and sources listed for FFPSS: fat, fiber, protein, sodium and sugar.